Many brands struggle with how to map out a really clear marketing schedule. The challenge with this is that there’s typically a lot of different initiatives and different people involved in ownership over those initiatives. We’ve seen countless occasions where some of the most successful and big brands are very discombobulated across different marketing channels and business products or services.
The problem lies within the risk of disorganization. In other words, if you’re not keeping your team focused around one central schedule you may miss deadlines, make mistakes, miscommunicate tasks, and waste time on creative. All of this leads to unsatisfied clients and frustrated marketers.
In this blog post, we’re going to walk through five key steps to aligning your marketing initiatives and creating a strategic roadmap that the whole organization can rally around, execute on, and measure against. But first, let’s break down the basics.
What is a marketing schedule?
Have you ever seen those stock photos of a boardroom of marketers huddled around a whiteboard covered in color coated sticky notes and charts? Well, that’s kind of what we’re referring to. Not every team elects to use a physical schedule, digital templates work just as great — or even better, a hybrid of the two. Either way, your schedule should cover a few basics:
- Clear and defined due dates
- Tasks to get you towards your end goal and which team member they are assigned to
- Task status (in progress, delayed, completed, etc.)
The idea is to build a custom schedule around these core functions, based on the needs of your company and its processes.
Why Use a Marketing Schedule?
Using a schedule benefits your company just as much as it benefits your clients. Here are some of the key advantages:
- Efficiency – Rather than starting each day from a broad perspective, your team can delve into a focused part of the project. Each day is spent on actually working, rather than planning. Think about how much time a train would save if it didn’t have to stop at each station.
- Reduced stress – When your team is rallying behind a clear goal it increases motivation, and when morale is high, the stress that accompanies a lack of direction is eliminated. Marketing is a fast-paced environment, and the best way to combat deadline stress is by scheduling a series of short recognizable micro-goals along the way.
- Transparency and accountability – When the entire team can see what everyone’s doing, it reduces miscommunications. Being able to view others’ progress also keeps people accountable. Everyone is part of the same machine, and in order for that machine to work, each individual needs to carry out his or her job.
Steps To Creating and Using a Marketing Schedule
Step 1: Throw it all at the wall
In this step, you need to gather all the different current initiatives that your business is doing and organize them into buckets.
The key here is to prioritize these things and find an overlap between initiatives. For example, there may be a content marketing initiative, that with solid alignment, can not only provide a way to grow organic traffic through SEO, but also provide amazing content to augment your email and advertising efforts in ad copy. Capitalize on opportunities like this to maximize the return on your efforts. Never underestimate the overlapping region of a Venn diagram.
As you begin to bucket these different initiatives, you’ll find things to cut out, things that can be better aligned, and huge opportunity gaps where the strategy is lacking or key components are missing. An excellent way to identify these opportunities is by breaking down the different tasks of each department with its team members. Once you break down each task you’ll be able to see common components and how they relate to each other.
Step 2: Map the customer journey
Even if you correctly identify the elements from step one, it doesn’t mean that things are aligning in terms of customers evaluating your brand and making a decision to buy.
You need very clear documentation about the details of your customers — who they are, what they care about, what drives them to make a purchase, what they’re afraid of, and how you can solve their problems.
This step can be very comprehensive, but can also be simple. For a lot of brands, it comes down to more clearly recognizing the different demographic information of their customers. The goal is that all of the marketing components that your customers interact with along their buying journey should fit their needs and speak to them.
So how does this fit into the marketing schedule? You and your team have to construct a step by step journey of your typical customer. Don’t limit yourself to one customer profile. Many companies have wide demographics, and each cohort can have drastically different paths.
Step 3: Dive into analytics and your competition
This data-driven step is key towards identifying what’s currently working, where low hanging fruit lies, and what your competition is up to.
Each company will vary in its goals, but establishing KPIs within your marketing schedule is crucial. Set goals and measure and continue to measure. For example, if your goal is to generate more leads through email sign-ups, you should have quantifiable targets each month. Subsequently, each marketing department that contributes to email signups should always have their eyes on the KPI’s.
When approaching insights about your competitors, keep your learning hat on. You can learn a lot about what and what not to do based on the successes and failures of industry peers. Look for areas where they are not protecting themselves so you can take advantage of gaps in the market. Take note of how they are positioning themselves, observe new trends they’re implementing, and look for ideas that you can improve upon.
Analytics and competition should be one of the pillars of your marketing schedule. Make it an element that you revisit with your team frequently. You’ll be able to simultaneously avoid slip-ups and be on top of the latest trends in the marketplace.
Step 4: Put circles up on whiteboard and pencil in core initiatives for each bucket
We mentioned Venn diagrams earlier. They’re just as useful now as they were in middle school. Using these circles are key to finding overlaps between your marketing initiatives and your audiences. This allows you to concentrate your efforts and inject a little synergy into your projects. In other words, do one thing really well and leverage that marketing asset across multiple parts of the sales funnel.
Your goal should be alignment. What do we mean by alignment? The balance between marketing and sales is a juggling act as old as time. These two factions of a company need to work in tandem. By nature, the two departments have different roles and goals, but if you can align those two elements, your dollars and resources will go a lot further.
A great example of an intersection where the two worlds collide is leads. It’s a good jumping off point for your sales and marketing departments to collaborate on. Have them define a lead-generation strategy that utilizes both of their resources to generate leads, while still satisfying the initiative.
Step 5: Put pen to paper
Take your big vision and write up a detailed execution plan. This should include the exact steps to get there, who will own those steps in your organization, deadlines for completion, and how they will be measured. This should also include overall long-term goals so that the big picture strategy can be measured based on a benchmark of data.
For example, if you want to improve subscriptions through an ad-based marketing plan, you’ll need to set benchmarks for the number of subscriptions, decide on creative for the ads, who is in charge of what, when your deadlines are, and which metrics you’ll measure to determine the success of the campaign. All the while you’ll need to measure this against your big picture goal of attracting investors to grow the company.
It sounds a lot easier than it is. That’s why so many companies fail to implement a schedule. It’s not enough to fly by the seat of your pants. It’s a pivotal decision to establish a comprehensive marketing plan for the entire company.
Once that’s done, all team members have to be crystal clear on the vision, and a proper project management system must be in place to keep things on track and push things forward.
Like with anything, looking at the map of a road is a way different experience than actually driving it.
Have your head on a swivel and take the shortcuts and smarter routes. Be able to pivot. It’s important to have a comprehensive plan, but you also need wiggle room for adaptability. Things change constantly and you need to be able to adjust on a dime. If all of your goals are aligned and your team is working towards a common target, you’ll be in an excellent position to easily pivot in the marketplace.
When it comes to marketing plans, sharpen your ax before you cut down a tree, it will take fewer swings.